VERNON – An Ellington man was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison, with suspension after serving seven years, and five years’ probation after pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of a Vernon motorcyclist.
Mark Desmarais, 47, argued before Judge Kathleen McNamara in October.
After his release, Desmarais will have to undergo treatment for substance abuse, serve in some capacity at a rehabilitation center, perform 100 hours of community service and adhere to an ignition lock, in addition to having his driver’s license revoked.
Desmarais is also prohibited from possessing alcohol and from having contact with the victim’s relatives.
The crash occurred on November 27, 2020, shortly before 9 p.m., when Willie Cooper, 61, of Vernon’s Rockville section was riding his motorcycle on Talcottville Road and Desmarais collided with him in an SUV.
Police attempted to take life-saving measures on Cooper before transporting him to Rockville General Hospital, where he was eventually pronounced dead.
At the sentencing, state attorney Matthew C. Gedansky said Desmarais had been drinking with his wife prior to the accident and that the two visited three different establishments and bought 19 drinks. Gedansky said police found their blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.
Following the accident, Desmarais was arrested in January 2021 and charged with second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, driving a vehicle while intoxicated, failing to yield to a left turn and driving in the wrong lane.
Gedansky said Desmarais should have known better and not have kept drinking or driving home himself.
“From the moment he opened the operator’s door … he committed a crime,” Gedansky said.
During the sentencing, Desmarais spoke through tears and said he apologized profusely for the damage he caused both his family and Cooper’s.
“I understand the damage I’ve done… I’ve taken their father and their grandfather away,” Desmarais said.
Cooper’s friends and family spoke to the judge about his life and impact on the community.
Pamela Clark, mother of three of Cooper’s children, said Cooper had been sober for nearly 10 years at the time of the accident.
Clark said Cooper was a dialysis patient and had spoken to her mother, who was on dialysis around the time of the accident, to allay her concerns.
“He told her not to worry because he would be there,” Clark said.
Peter Brown, owner of Racks Billiards & Bar in Vernon, said he met Cooper, an avid pool player, at his establishment.
“I would see him every day for three years,” Brown said, adding that Cooper had positively impacted the lives of many.
“Every day we are reminded … that Willie is not with us,” he said.
McNamara said the accident also had a profound effect on Desmarais’ family, as his wife and children have lost him and their home.
“This is a tragedy that has affected two groups of people,” McNamara said.
Joseph covers East Hartford and South Windsor. He joined the JI in July 2021. Joseph graduated from the University of Connecticut and is an avid guitarist and coffee lover.